Bike Tour To Panama City: Border Crossing, Panamanian Hospitality

October 5, 2013 | By | Reply More
Paso Canoas, Panama/Costa Rica border

Paso Canoas, Costa Rica/Panama border

It’s border crossing day! I make it a ritual to thoroughly sweep my bags and clothing before going to borders and airports to make sure no one puts any contraband. Better to be safe than sorry. šŸ™‚

Panama immigration at Paso Canoas has gotten strict in recent months. I heard from many travelers who passed through had difficulty crossing. They ask for proof of onward travel, which is standard. Before one would be able to buy a bus ticket back to San Jose. Now I’ve heard stories that they are asking to show proof of travel back to home country and proof of $500 USD cash or credit cards or print out of bank statements.

When it was my turn at the window, I was only asked for proof of onward travel, how much money I had, and I showed a credit card.

Internet cafe at border

Print documents at internet cafe at border if needed

Prior to going to Panamanian immigration, I went to the internet cafe in no mans land, the zone between the two countries to print out an airline confirmation ticket.

Buy sim card at mobile phone store at border

Buy sim card at mobile phone store at border

Since my cell phone is unlocked, I always buy a new sim card for each country I visit. The store pictured above was able to cut the sim card to fit in my iPhone. I paid $3 USD for a Movistar sim and I loaded it with $5 USD prepaid cell phone credit so I can make calls and have internet access. It makes communication easy on the road. Plus, that’s how I can broadcast the bike tour on Ustream and activate the GPS so you can track me on the road.

The journey to David begins

The journey to David begins

After a few hours of going through the process to get stamped out of Costa Rica and then into Panama, I made it to the other side. I bought a few bananas at a fruit stand and I was ready to begin my journey to David which is a town about 50 km from the border. It was breathtaking to see the road ahead.

Daniel from ConcepciĆ³n, Panama

Daniel from ConcepciĆ³n, Panama

While on my way, I met this Panamanian cyclist named Daniel who pulled up right next to me. He asked where I was going. I said Panama City. He was surprised that I was headed so far and asked why. I told him that it was a dream of mine to bike on the Pan-American Highway.

Daniel was curious to learn how I find places to sleep. I said that I just roll up into a town and search for a hostel or hotel. He then invited me to stay at his house in ConcepciĆ³n which was only 24 km away.

I changed my plans for this random opportunity to get invited into a local’s home and learn about the Panamanian culture. I was happy I did.

The pic above was taken at a fruit stand on the side of the road where we took break to eat mamon chinos which are rambutans in English.

Daniel's home

Daniel’s home

Daniel’s family’s home was right off the Pan-American Highway near a gas station. After checking with his mom to make sure it was okay, he invited me in and helped me unload my stuff.

His mom cooked lunch and washed my cycling uniform. Whoa! They gave me a warm welcome into the country within hours from arriving.

After lunch, Daniel gave me tour of his town, share info about his country, where to take photos, and areas to avoid in Panama City. Daniel gave me valuable insight into the road ahead in. I didn’t have to know everything up front to plan this trip.

I’ve never experienced anything like this before. It was totally random. Traveling solo on a bike has allowed for this interaction. If I was with a friend, I’m not sure if this would have happened.

I was so gratefully that I had the chance to meet them and was blown away by their openness and hospitality! They shared what they had. They didn’t want anything in return. They were good people that wanted to help out a stranger fulfill his dream.

I wondered how lucky I was to have had this experience. This could be good karma coming back. I’ve hosted many Couchsurfers in the past and have done similar to what they have done. It gave me another nudge to continue to help others out and keep paying it forward.

Bike touring allows for connecting with locals on a different level to learn about the culture.

Paso Canoas to ConcepciĆ³n 29 km

Paso Canoas to ConcepciĆ³n 29 km

It only took a few hours to bike from the border to ConcepciĆ³n. Easy ride. Mostly downhill which was fun to coast.

Track my location

Follow me to Panama City on GPS! Subscribe to follow the journey.

UPDATE 10/10/13: I first purchased the Movistar sim card in my iPhone, but the data network is Edge along the Pan-Am Highway, very slow. I switch to Claro and am able to get 3G speeds with unlimited data for 7 days for $5 USD. Much happier.

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